I am currently working on my Mermaid WIP, Songs of the Deep. This idea came to me in a flash. One perfect scene played out in front of me. I was driving down the road—which is actually where I get most of my ideas—and BAM. There it was.
I was in the middle of a draft for one of my other projects so I let it simmer on the back burner. I was hoping it would build. I was hoping I would learn more about the characters and the world. But I didn’t. I never had any more than what I saw that first day. So when I finally had a chance to work on it months later, I still didn’t know anything about it.
I have never tried to pants a story before and decided this was the perfect opportunity. I did as little planning as I could and dove it. I finally wrote that scene down and it flowed out of me so easily. I had been watching it on a loop in my head for months so I guess that isn’t a surprise. I knew exactly how it was going to happen.
But then, I was lost. I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know how the characters would react. I tried to force it, but it was like fingernails on the chalkboard and it was breaking my spirit. I was so excited about this story, but I was losing my love for it. So, I took a small step back. I did some character backgrounds, made a few aesthetics, and thought about a few major plot points.
My love for the story renewed I jumped in again. I got a total of 3k written and stalled again. I still didn’t know enough. Everything I came up with I hated. I asked my characters for help and they ignored me. I was floundering. I was getting discouraged. I finally decided that pantsing just isn’t for me.
So I stepped back again. This time further. I pulled myself completely out of the story and tried to look at it as a whole. I started plotting. My goal was to have a really thorough outline. That is what I had done with both of my other WIPs. But I struggled with that too.
I pulled out my copy of Save the Cat and a few hundred sticky notes. I wrote down everything I knew. Everything I wanted. Every snippet I had come up with. I called my sister, who is my go-to soundboard and bounced my ideas off her. Together, we shot down every single one I had down. I just couldn’t figure out where this story was headed.
I was complaining about it to my accountability partner and she suggested I go back to talking to my characters and I ask them why they are doing the things they are doing. I managed to apply this and I got the first act of the novel outlined. Then I got stuck again. I was at the point that I decided I just couldn’t work on this story right now.
I decided that maybe the idea just sucked and that why it wasn’t working.
I sat down one last time to try and get the second act plotted. I decided that if I couldn’t make some headway in the second act by the end of the day, I was going to shelve it and work on something else.
So I did just that.
I sat down and worked. I read through everything I had and then just made shit up! I wrote down every stupid idea I had. My characters rolled their eyes at me, cursed at me, and ignored me. I kept going. I kept going until they finally told me something. And that was all I needed. That one little nugget of information. After that, I flew through it.
I got a rough outline done in just a few hours. Then I went back and gave myself a few more details. I did this again and again. Adding scenes. Rearranging scenes. Deleting scenes.
After about five hours, I had an outline that I love. I know it will change as I write, they always do, but for right now I am happy with where this story is headed. My characters are finally talking to me. I am getting to know them on so many levels. I love it.
So I am FINALLY ready to dive back into the actual drafting of this WIP. Only 19 days after I originally started drafting. I am so far behind on the schedule and goals I had in the beginning, but it’s okay. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. I learned so much from this experience.
I am definitely not a pantser. I am 100% a plotter.
I am setting new goals for myself and I cannot wait to get those words down. By not forcing something that wasn’t working, I rediscovered my love for this project. I am excited and cannot wait to share it with the world!
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you tried your hand at the other? Did it work out? Let me know what you think in the comments below!